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Derek R

- Research Program Mentor

PhD at University of California Los Angeles (UCLA)


electrochemistry, fuel cells, neutron reflectometry, chemical manufacturing, high and low temperature reaction engineering, mass and energy transport, environmental impact reduction


My name is Derek and I am a PhD student at UCLA working with electrochemical reactions to sustainably convert methane and carbon dioxide to more valuable chemicals. During my undergrad at the University of Arkansas, I gained first hand experience in petroleum engineering through an eight month internship at an oil refinery in south Arkansas. While I enjoyed the work, I realized that a future in industry might not be what I was looking for. On returning to school I joined a research group that focused on electrochemical systems. As a part of this group I headed a project designed to reclaim phosphorus from waste water. and during my senior year I competed as part of a team in the WERC Environmental Design Contest hosted by NMSU. Both of these experiences lead me to research as a career path, and sparked an interest in electrochemistry. I was able to attain a post bachelor internship with Los Alamos National Lab's fuel cell research program where I gained experience working with polymer electrolyte fuel cells and used neutron reflectometry to investigate the behavior of thin-film electrolytes. In 2019 I started my PhD at UCLA and am currently developing high temperature electrochemical methane reactors and applying smart manufacturing techniques to electrochemical carbon dioxide reduction. Most of my hobbies and interests outside of research are in adventure sports such as climbing, biking, hiking and backpacking, mountaineering, paddling, and most recently combining all these into overlanding. If I'm not working on research on the weekends, you'll find me driving remote dirt roads in the sierras, climbing California's 14rs or generally cramming as much sight seeing into a weekend as possible. Before moving away from Arkansas I was very active in scouts and spent many years after obtaining my eagle scout mentoring the next generation. I look forward to utilizing the experience I've had in the past to develop the generation of leaders in science for the future.

Project ideas

Project ideas are meant to help inspire student thinking about their own project. Students are in the driver seat of their research and are free to use any or none of the ideas shared by their mentors.

Design of easy and inexpensive water treatment system for use in remote locations

Design a water treatment system utilizing readily available resources that can be easily constructed to produce drinking water in a remote location chosen by the student. Demonstrate that the system works by building a prototype and testing it.

Teaching experience

I have been a TA for the chemical engineering capstone design course at UCLA for 3 quarters and TA for the Intro to Chemical Engineering course at UCLA for 1 quarter. Additionally I have many years of experience teaching and mentoring in several capacities through the Boy Scouts of America Including as a summer camp councilor, 4 years of remote canoe guiding, and a certified climbing instructor.


Work experience

Martin Operating Partnership, Cross Oil Refinery (2016 - 2016)
Process Engineer Intern
Los Alamos National Laboratory (2018 - 2019)
Post Bachelor Intern
Renewable Energy and Ocean Technology Startup (2023 - Current)
Applied Physicist, Electrochemistry


University of Arkansas
BS Bachelor of Science (2018)
Chemical Engineering
University of California Los Angeles (UCLA)
MS Master of Science
Chemical Engineering
University of California Los Angeles (UCLA)
PhD Doctor of Philosophy
Chemical Engineering

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